This fantastically tasty fish soup hails from Sri Lanka and the southern coastal regions of India. When I first tasted it, I found it very difficult to identify the source of its striking richness. It was only when I asked how it was made that I discovered that the soup was thickened with a paste made from cashews. The nuts are lightly roasted, then ground into a paste with chopped coriander stems. I have since learned that this technique is frequently used to enrich soups, stews, and curries for special occasions.
Recipe courtesy of "Street Food: Exploring the World's Most Authentic Tastes" by Tom Kime, copyright 2007. Used by permission of Dorling Kindersley Limited. All rights reserved.
|2 tbsp vegetable oil||1 tsp ground turmeric|
|3 tbsp raw cashews||3 1/2 cups good-quality fish stock|
|2 garlic cloves, finely chopped||1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened coconut cream or coconut milk|
|1 2in. (5 cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped||2 tsp dark brown sugar|
|2 fresh red Thai chilies, seeded and finely chopped, plus extra, cut into slivers, for garnish (optional)||2 limes, juice|
|1 bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves and stems finely chopped||1 lb (450 g) baby squid, cleaned|
|2 onions, finely chopped||1 lb (450 g) uncooked large prawns, peeled, deveined, and halved lengthwise|
|1 tbsp fennel seeds||1 lb (450 g) firm white fish, cut into bite-size chunks|
|1 tbsp coriander seeds||salt and freshly ground black pepper|
Heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of the oil, and lightly brown the cashews. Set aside. In the same oil, cook the garlic, ginger, and chopped chilies for 2–3 minutes until fragrant. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the cashews, cilantro stems, garlic, ginger, and chilies to make a paste. Set aside. Heat the remaining oil in a clean heavy pan over low heat. Add the onion. Gently cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.
Meanwhile, crush the fennel seed and coriander seed using a pestle and mortar. When the onion is soft, add the fennel and coriander seeds and the turmeric. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add half of the cashew paste. Pour in the fish stock and coconut cream, then add the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lime juice and remaining nut paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should have a balance of sweet richness and acidity.
While the soup base is simmering, slit open the squid and, using a small sharp knife, carefully score the outside in a crisscross pattern. Cut the squid into bite-size pieces. Put in a bowl with the prawns and fish. Season well with salt and pepper. Add to the soup, and simmer for 3 minutes or until the prawns turn pink and the squid is opaque. Stir in half of the cilantro leaves. Serve at once in small bowls garnished with the remaining cilantro leaves and red chilies (if using).
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